Animating still photos of fires

Today I have been experimenting with an app that recently became available for iPhones and iPads, called Plotagraph. It can be used to animate still photos and seems like a natural for manipulating photographs of fires. You can’t use the app to create new stuff in the photo, but you can take what’s there and make it move.

So far I’ve worked on three photos. One had flames that were fairly easy to isolate and another had smoke that was easy to work with. The third was a B-17 dropping retardant.

The way it works is, first you identify what areas in the photo you do not want to animate, then you indicate the direction and speed for the motion. When finished, it can be saved as a video.

The first one, below, shows a member of the Alpine Hotshots who was working on the 2014 Norbeck Prescribed Fire in Custer State Park.

The next one is from the 2012 White Draw Fire.

And finally, retardant from a B-17.

If you’re having trouble viewing the videos, you can see them on YouTube.

To get your own prints of the original still images…..

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “Animating still photos of fires”

  1. Pretty cool effect. I’ve used it but not for fires. May have to re-visit some of my favorites fro some of the larger Southern California wildland fires. It occurs for me that the retardant in photo 3 should be flowing in the opposite direction…streaming away and behind the aircraft instead of following it, but maybe that is just me. I certainly appreciate the hard work you put into this; your years of experience underline it.

    1. William, you have a good point about the direction of the retardant. For the first couple of seconds after being released the retardant is moving forward until the trajectory curves and it begins to drop straight down — assuming the tanker is 150′ or more above the ground. However, relative to the position of the aircraft it would appear to moving backwards. Maybe I’ll make a second version.


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